PloS one

βArrestin-1 and Mcl-1 modulate self-renewal growth of cancer stem-like side-population cells in non-small cell lung cancer.

PMID 23418490


Side population (SP) cells have been reported to have properties of cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) in non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), yet their molecular features have not been fully elucidated. Here we show that, NSCLC-SP cells were enriched in G(0)/G-(1) phase of cell cycle, had higher aldehyde dehydrogenase activity as well as higher clonogenic and self-renewing ability compared to main population (MP) cells. Interestingly, SP cells were also able to trans-differentiate into angiogenic tubules in vitro and were highly tumorigenic as compared to MP cells. SP-derived tumors demonstrated the intratumoral heterogeneity comprising of both SP and MP cells, suggesting the self-renewal and differentiation ability of SP cells are manifested in vivo as well. βArrestin-1 (βArr1) is involved in the progression of various cancers including NSCLCs and we find that depletion of βArr1 significantly blocked the SP phenotype; whereas depletion of βArr2 had relatively minor effects. Ectopic expression of βArr1 resulted in increased SP frequency and ABCG2 expression while abrogation of βArr1 expression suppressed the self-renewal growth and expansion of A549 cells. Anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 is known to be one of the key regulators of self-renewal of tissue stem cells and is thought to contribute to survival of NSCLC cells. Our experiments show that higher levels of Mcl-1 were expressed in SP cells compared to MP cells at both transcriptional and translational levels. In addition, Obatoclax, a pharmacological inhibitor of Mcl-1, could effectively prevent the self-renewal of both EGFR-inhibitor sensitive and resistant NSCLC cells. In conclusion, our findings suggest that βArr1 and Mcl-1 are involved in the self-renewal and expansion of NSCLC-CSCs and are potential targets for anti-cancer therapy.